HK Uncut, anyone?

The Nation magazine has been publishing some excellent interviews with prominent Peak Oil and Climate Change experts lately, and has now printed a long article by the great journalist Johann Hari:

It tells how a group of 12 people chatting in a pub in the UK decided to take action against prominent tax dodgers Vodafone by using Twitter to rally people to a Vodafone shop in Oxford Street, London, during the pre-Christmas shopping binge. They successfully shut off the shop by sitting outside and explaining to shoppers that they were doing this because they were outraged that Vodafone – just one company – owed 6 billion pounds in tax, whilst 7 billion pounds of social services were being cut due to the financial crisis. Why doesn’t the government just force this one company to pay what it owes instead of cutting services to the poor and kicking people out of their homes? Another example of a government stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Well, people started sitting down in the street to support them, and similar actions sprang up all around the country. Vodafone ended up paying just 1 billion of what they owed, but what a great example of direct action to the rest of us. Instead of sitting around thinking why does everyone just put up with this situation, these 12 people actually did something, and with the help of Twitter they’ve started something that may be the first stirrings of revolution!

UK Uncut, as the group called themselves, have targeted tax dodgers, which is a great idea, but why not use the same tactic to target companies responsible for climate change? Why not do it here in Hong Kong? It’s certainly a great way of drawing attention to your cause – for the first of’s days of action back in October 2009, a group of about 50 of us stopped the traffic outside Marks and Spencer’s in Central by demonstrating on the pedestrian crossing for just 350 seconds. It was scary but exhilarating to take part, and it created quite a stir amongst the onlookers – not to mention the motorists – and it had people asking questions about the meaning of 350. But, of course, it’s had no lasting effect, except perhaps in the hearts of those of us who took part. So how could we do something that would have a knock-on effect and really get some action going in relation to climate change? What would be a suitable target? If you wanted to draw attention to the fact that CLP is probably Hong Kong’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, what would you target? What would inspire other people to do similar actions directed at other companies?

One problem is the massive apathy and complacency of Hongkongers. UK Uncut are operating in a situation where huge cuts are affecting people’s standard of living in a very tangible way, whilst tax dodgers like Vodafone are allowed to reap in their profits without paying any tax. There is a real sense of outrage to tap into. But in Hong Kong there is no outrage about anything, and certainly not climate change. Or am I wrong? The social networking sites have shown themselves to be very effective at communicating information to vast numbers of people more or less instantaneously and mobilising them to take part in demonstrations such as led to Mubarak’s downfall in Egypt. Perhaps more people than I think would be willing to take part in action against those companies which are actively destroying our world and seriously compromising the future of our children. Maybe we should try to rally all those people with young children, as it’s their future that is being sold for a bag of silver. Any suggestions for some direct action?

Finally, here’s a link to Johann Hari’s ten-step guide to launching a US Uncut. What about an HK Uncut?

Don Latter


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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